As widely predicted, the removal of the right to abortion in the US, which was trailed in a leaked Supreme Court opinion earlier this year, has now become a ruling, meaning that roughly half of US states have already or will soon ban abortion. Thirteen states already have “trigger ban” legislation that automatically came into effect once the Supreme Court’s ruling was made official, some implementing a ban immediately, with other states’ bans coming into effect after 30 days. American commentators predict that a further six states will bring in bans within a few weeks or months, placing their commitment to women’s autonomy over their own bodies alongside such bastions of progressive freedoms as Angola, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Despite the assertion of the victorious religious right in America, the vast majority of women do not treat abortion as a quick and easy alternative to contraception. Rather, many women are victims of rape, incest or domestic violence. Some are underage. Others live in such extreme, grinding poverty that another mouth to feed would push their whole family over the edge, especially in a country that has always been suspicious of the type of welfare-state safety net to which Europeans have become accustomed since the end of the second world war.
Any ban will also have a catastrophic impact on lesbians: corrective rape, where a man tries to “cure” a woman of same-sex attraction by brutally penetrating her, often repeatedly, is reportedly on the rise in the US but even this disgusting, sickening practice is unlikely to be the only negative consequence of the court’s ruling for America’s LGBTQ+ community.
The reason why the Supreme Court was able to remove a woman’s automatic right to abortion is because that right was never enacted by Congress as a law: instead, it was enshrined in a 1972 judgement – Roe vs. Wade – where judges required the states to provide safe and timely access to abortion. Now, as we know, that 1972 decision has been reversed, setting alarm bells ringing for equal marriage, the right to which was established in the same way, that is not by statute but via a 2015 Supreme Court ruling: Obergefell vs. Hodges. If Roe vs. Wade can be reversed by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court, then so can Obergefell vs. Hodges. Yesterday, Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the landmark 2015 case, who is running as a democrat for the Ohio state legislature, said, “Today is about this horrifying invasion of privacy that this court is now allowing, and when we lose one right that we have relied on and enjoyed, other rights are at risk.”
This is not scaremongering. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Aliton and Clarence Thomas, both of whom voted to reverse Roe vs. Wade, both dissented on the 2015 Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling that legalised same-sex marriage in the United States. And in an opinion published yesterday, Thomas wrote that the court should reconsider all “substantive due process precedents”. These precedents not only include Obergefell vs. Hodges, but also the right to same-sex intimacy that was conferred in 2003 by the court in Lawrence vs. Texas.
Speaking on the eve of Chicago Pride, Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said that same-sex marriage rights are at the most risk of being overturned. She told CBS Chicago that “the Roe ruling makes it clear – the battle is not just about abortion rights”.
Fears do not seem to be unfounded, with the US conservative religious right seemingly invigorated by the ban. Paul Dupont, a spokesman for the conservative anti-abortion American Principles Project, said that conservatives are optimistic about the potential for future victories on cultural issues, though getting more states to ban abortion is “a huge enough battle.” Former President Donald Trump took a characteristically more simple position, saying “God made the decision.”